Born in 2009, orangutan Robin was rescued from a private zoo that was closed by the authorities. Having spent most of his life in captivity, Robin has become very humanised. Unfortunately, he can't be released into the wild – his lack of typical orangutan behaviour and his intense love for interactions with humans would put him in immediate danger. Our experienced team at the ORANGUTAN FOREST SCHOOL, therefore, does everything they can to provide Robin a joyful life under our care.
A naturalistic enclosure
We are in the process of getting additional land to build a naturalistic enclosure which will be as close to his natural habitat as possible. Until then, Robin is in our facilities, where he has access to several cages in different sizes. Each enclosure is enriched with various items that support orangutan locomotion like suspension and climbing as well as resting and privacy. Hammocks to rest or drums to hide – complex structures and different levels and materials make sure Robin doesn't get bored. Additionally, the structures are changed every 3-6 months to give him more diversity.
In the wild, orangutans spend a lot of time searching for food in the trees and exploring their environment. Therefore, when it comes to caged animals, providing occupational enrichment and different ways in which food is presented is an essential task. To ensure the psychological wellbeing of Robin, the team provides him with occupational activities several times per day – like food puzzles. It is an effective way to encourage foraging behaviours and to stimulate the orangutans' senses and curiosity. They are made of a variety of materials like water basins, bags, cardboard, odours and sawdust. Because orangutans are very intelligent and get bored quickly, our caregivers monitor Robin's interests closely to always choose the most stimulating items.
Positive Reinforcement Training
In 2019, we invited an American expert in positive reinforcement training in great apes, to instruct our caregivers. This kind of training, which is used in zoos and animal sanctuaries all over the world, is a useful tool to minimise stress for captive animals. The goal is to build a connection based on trust, voluntary cooperation and routines, instead of coercion and hostility.
We are happy to see that the training has improved Robin’s wellbeing as well the safety of his caregivers. Moving on command, permitting his caregivers to close doors or to touch his body for health checks and a higher willingness to cooperate in general – Robin has made great progress!
In 2019, Robin was socialised with Amalia. This was probably the first time he touched another orangutan since he lost his mother! Nevertheless, their socialisation went well: They spent a long time playing rough and tumble. Robin still had to learn to control his strength, but luckily, in later socialisations with Eska and Amalia, he showed that he had learned to be much more sensitive.
As the other orangutans will be released into the wild, we are hoping to rescue another unreleasable orangutan who Robin not only can share the enclosure with but also find a companion in.
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